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Padova Again - Rumours, People, Pizza and Personalities


If Sunday was funday, Monday was the day to get down to business at the Padua show.. 


The Italian cycling industry is in a real state of change, with the traditional Italian historic brands trying to navigate a route through a minefield of traps - a broken economy, a domestic market still dependant on face to face sales but compromised by dealers with no cash to pay yet no real internet sales, an export market in pieces as traditional distribution models make Italian made product top end of price ranges not to mention overseas distributors getting simply blown away by the likes of Specialised, Trek, and others. 


News of the show appeared to be the Lampre team switching from Italian brand Wilier to chinese manufacturer Merida. Of course shoved is a more appropriate term that switched, and the rumoured 3 million a year contract shows how hard it is trying to maintain a high level pro team when your cheque book isnt as big as the new guys. So Lampre, a classic Italian team, with superb heritage and a previous "whos who of italian cycling long" list of previous Italian big hitter riders - Fondriest, Cunego, Scarponi, Pettachi, Simoni et al are going to be riding Merida bikes !  An Italian travesty, money talks and Italy walks - commiserations to Willier and another big money entrant hammers another nail in the coffin of the brands trying desperately to slug it out mano a mano with the new giants where the yen and dollar rule .


But out of adversity comes opportunity, the Italian industry is evolving and out of evolution a new breed of Italian cycling industry will emerge - sharper, faster, leaner, run by a new breed of entrepeneur. The first generations of Italys post war cycling companies, who enjoyed and prospered in the 60, 70s, and 80s and whose decline started in the 90s are handing over to their sons and daughters - and these are the ones who need to embrace and adapt, be nimble to survive. Stand still and be trampled, or get out the way very quickly and find another route before its too late - yes times are a changing, you gotta change with em guys ! Lets get moving guys there are deals to be done..

1/ Sarto Distribution


Antonio the father and Enrico the son have already begun their transformation. Antonio is 82 years old and still spends every day at the factory, you can set your clock by him, bicycles are in his blood and I am sure he will work until he drops.

Enrico is one of the new breed, starting to evolve, a little slowly at first but now he knows what to do, immensely proud of his creations and steadfastly mantaining his Italian production but by developing systems and processes ahead of the game his ability to custom produce tube to tube frames, and his understanding of bicycle production are truly world class. 

Two years ago after my first visit to their factory I was so impressed I told him to sell direct and we would do it for them and give them a platform to compete - then nothing happened from him, to say I was disappointed, frustrated, annoyed was an understatement. "Yes I think its a good idea but not yet", "I must protect the brands I supply", "not in Italy" and a host of excuses. Not to worry I said, just come back when you are ready.

So after our Monday meeting, Enrico pulls me slowly to one side, "Dave I think we are ready to go now, I want to build the Sarto brand and we can sell it directly". 

2/ Sab Bikes Acquisition 



Sab is a little known and decent second tier Italian brand based out of San Marino. San Marino is the tiny republic on the adriatic coast with less than stringent taxes and a current hotspot of Russian oligarchs and a big hill call mount Titan.

Pier Luigi Mullaroni is another son of an industry godfather though a less well known one, the Titan brand evolved into the Titan Hornet company which evolved into Sab bikes. 

Pier Luigi is a medallion wearing big hitter in San Marino - he is bodyguard to the president and stands to the right of him in full military attire at state functions, he has many and various business interests but no time to evolve and adapt a bicycle company in this marketplace. 

So with Jamie Burrow our new "many in Italy" being based out of Rimini, and in fact a previous team rider of Sab it seemed the stars were all in alignement and we are pleased to announce planet x is acquiring Sab bikes and going to move it forward as best we can, probably badly, certain differently, and we definitely will not be sponsorsing Lampre. 

3/ Guerciotti Bikes 


Yet more father and son evolution at Guerciotti bikes. 

Paolo Guerciotti is celebrating 50 years in the Italian cycling industry this year, that is a long time and he is one of the classic horse trading wheeler dealing Italian cycling barons. Five minutes into our meeting he was trying to sell me his Ferrari, whilst I was trying to buy, as usual some of his historic vintage bikes that are stored in an upstairs floor of his warehouse, the Giro bikes of Gilberto Simoni, the Paris Roubaix bikes of Dimitri Konyshev (complete with pave notes still sellotaped to top tube), the world championship cross bikes of Liboton - all causually tossed, uncleaned, in a pile in the corner of a room. 

Paolo I implored, "tell your customers about your history it is important, no-one knows you"

Dave he replied "what price for the Ferrari, I give you a good price, lets do a deal "

Meanwhile Alessandro his son is not doing a bad job, he is evolving and adapting quite well. Pushing hard into the Asian markets is a decent strategy, and of course we are distributing for them in the UK and USA. 

Good effort Alessansro, adapt and evolve, dont stand still.



25 September 2012

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